On Friday, Aunt Addi is cooking breakfast. As soon as she sees Eli, she gives him a bone-crushing hug.
"Addi?" he asks. It's not his face, that he does know. Whatever Zoe put in her potion, it worked, and now Eli's skin is as healed as it was on Tuesday. Maybe better, given the way his acne seems to have vanished along with the bruises.
He gets one more squeeze before Aunt Addi takes a step back, still holding onto his arms as she regards him with soft pride. Addi is five-foot-nothing, all neat uniform and tight braids. Not stern, exactly, but Eli doesn't think he's seen quite this expression on her face since . . . since he came to live here.
"You're a good man, Elias Drake," she's saying, apropos of nothing Eli can see. "Your daddy would be proud of you. I want you to remember that."
"Um," says Eli. "Thanks, Aunt Addi."
It's a strange interaction, but it's followed by a plate of waffles, so Eli doesn't think too much more about it. Particularly not when Addi says, "You might see Lacroix at school today."
It takes Eli a moment to realize Addi means Ms. Lacroix, not Arthur or Morgan. "Is it about the murder?" he asks, trying to not appear too interested.
Judging by Addi's sigh, he fails miserably. "Murders," she corrects. "There was another overnight."
The shiver ripples up Eli's spine before he's even really processed the words. Like something shifting just beneath his skin, hot and angry. "Another?" he says, his voice a strange almost-growl. Funny, how he doesn't feel frightened.
If Addi notices anything amiss, she doesn't show it, just nods. "In the woods behind Old Coe Road."
Eli's heart stutters, just once. "Who?"
"Old Mr. Lawrence," Addi says. "I don't think you knew him."
Eli shakes his head. "But . . . if Ms. Lacroix is going to be at the school . . .?"
Addi sighs, heavy and frustrated. "Lacroix sees cults and serial killers in the burn marks on her toast," she snaps. Then her eyes go momentarily wide. "Don't tell her I said that."
"In fact, best you don't tell her much of anything."
"Aunt Addi?" Eli feels there's something he's missing.
"She's not a cop," Addi says. "You just remember that, okay?"
Addi's brow is furrowed, and she's looking at Eli with the sort of intensity she normally reserved for evidence reports and suspect confessions.
"Eli?" she prompts. "Promise me you'll remember."
"I promise," Eli says, and wonders what she means.
He finds out about ten seconds after walking into school property.
"Mister Drake, with me please."
Eli has always liked Principal Malek. He's middle-aged and overweight, with greying hair and the sort of eyes that still sparkle with mischief and wonder. Eli figures any guy who can look like that while being the boss of a school like Rosemont must be a-okay.
Today, Principal Malek has no hint of good-natured joviality; his eyes are shadowed and there's a tense set to his jaw. Eli knows that expression. It's the watered-down version of son, there's been an accident, and it never bodes well.
"Principal Malek?" Eli says. "Is everything okay?"
"Fine," Malek says, and Eli knows it's a lie. "Everything will be fine."
YOU ARE READING
The Dragon of Rosemont HighTeen Fiction
Four months ago, the death of his parents sent Elias Drake from New York City to the small town of Rosemont. Living with his workaholic aunt and trying to fit into a new school is no small task, especially not when a string of murders turns out to h...